Grand Junction: Iowa’s next great artist colony?
By DOUGLAS BURNS
A community development professional spearheading a decades-long plan for revival and advancement of Greene County is rolling out ambitious prescriptions ranging from construction of an indoor/outdoor water park near Wild Rose Casino and Resort to the transformation of downtown Grand Junction into an artist’s colony.
Zachary Mannheimer of McClure Engineering in Clive, the facilitator of Greene County’s Vision 2020 — a planning process that involves public and private investment over years — keynoted the Greene County Development Corp. annual dinner Wednesday night at Wild Rose. About 50 people from the region attended.
The full Vision 2020 plan (it’s now at 75 percent) will be released within six weeks and include cost projections, funding sources and timelines.
Mannheimer’s main point: future residents of Greene County won’t be drawn by jobs alone. Quality of life will be key in attracting and maintaining a viable population, he said.
Second, the county should leverage the presence of Jefferson’s casino by developing the area around it with other attractions, Mannheimer said.
Chief on that list: an aquatic center.
He suggested that it include, in addition to indoor/outdoor features, a splash park, natural playscape and a beer garden.
“We want to create something that all families can enjoy,” Mannheimer said.
He predicted a Jefferson water park with those features could be as successful as any in the Midwest.
Another element of Vision 2020 is the development of a brew pub in Jefferson, a business-class restaurant that will feature a variety of Iowa-crafted beers on tap and in bottles and cans.
“It will be a heavy focus on Iowa beers,” Mannheimer said.
Vision 2020 steering committee members envision the launch of such a brew pub at 219 N. Wilson Ave., a former U-Haul building that previously served as Jefferson City Hall.
“This restaurant’s going to open real fast,” said Ken Paxton, executive director of the Greene County Development Corp.
Mannheimer said the Vision 2020 plan will include three trail loops for walking and bicycling in Jefferson — loops of 7 miles, 5 miles and 4.5 miles.
More details on school improvements and day care services will be in the final plan, he said.
In area towns, the likely plans include:
• Reopening of a restaurant in Scranton.
• Incentivizing development of a 16-unit apartment complex in Paton.
• Consolidating downtown properties in Grand Junction to create living and working space for an artist’s colony.
Mannheimer said blighted property in Grand Junction’s business corridor could be purchased for about $10,000 and transformed to attract a creative class of artists and entrepreneurs.
Vision 2020 team members have identified about 200 people living in the Des Moines area who would be interested in such a Grand Junction prospect.
“We think it could be a very unique proposition for that town,” Mannheimer said.
Sid Jones, president of the Greene County Development Corp. and Home State Bank in Jefferson, said some of the ideas are bold.
And that’s the way it should be, he said.
“The whole idea of community development is to be different,” Jones said.
Also at the dinner, MidAmerican Energy officials said the investor-owned utility plans to double the size of its 85-turbine, 175-megawatt Beaver Creek wind farm in Greene and Boone counties next year.
As it stands, the turbines are split — 41 in Greene County and 44 in Boone County.
The majority of the 80-plus turbines slated for construction in 2018 will go up in Greene County, said Matt Ott, a project developer with MidAmerican.
MidAmerican developed 20 miles of service roads to access the turbines in Phase 1 of the wind farm.
Over the next 40 years, the 85 turbines will mean $68 million in local tax collections and $54 million in payments for landowner easements, Ott said.
Paxton continued to stress housing development and believes Jefferson is close to landing an outside developer interested in a 42-unit, single-family plan for the city.
“We are starting to crack through to finally get something going with housing,” Paxton said.